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To Failure:

Read by Dave Bonta

        I never wanted to be an astronaut, suffocated 
by thought: all that tethers a man to ship is ingenuity 
and wiring.
        Never a doctor, for all the skin 
I’ve split open, each scar’s lip chatter 
a permanent marker of foolishness:
        How I kicked my way out of brotherhood 
fights; lifted more than I should to impress 
all those beautiful girls who valued me more 
as a good listener, because I could repeat back 
like a tape recorder, the important phrases. 
How I wanted to be Indiana Jones, his whole cowboy- 
professor balancing act — to ruggedly flex my intellect — 
tripping over Australopithecus and patriarchal society 
in bar conversations, house warming parties 
and baby showers.
        You’re unavoidable, I hear an old lady 
on the train whisper: like fire once it realizes 
it can breathe, you prey on the world, leave us all 
self-described martyrs in our own ashes.
        By now, I should be loudly objecting 
to the needling pleas of aunts who still believe 
I want to go to law school. That I should forget 
about writing a book and be happy 
correcting the mixing of past and present tense; 
suggesting changes in the vagaries of somethings 
and someones in the midnight scripts of adrenaline- 
rushed youth, their worlds half constructed 
in night’s silent race with dawn.
        Raised fatherless and slight, uncles 
want me to roughen my pretty hands, deaden 
a few layers at work in the same daily dark 
they live — await factory downsizes in drinking 
clubs named after better animals than man, 
where it’s all gamble on football and gobble 
the remnants from cracked peanut shells 
piling in glass cigarette trays.
Christopher Ankney lives with his wife in Annapolis, Maryland, where he teaches writing when not out amateurishly birding. His work has lived in places such as Crab Orchard, Gulf Coast, Hunger Mountain, Third Coast and The Los Angeles Review. His first manuscript, silent defiance, was a 2010 finalist in the Crab Orchard First Book contest and semifinalist in the Brittingham / Felix Pollak Awards out of the University of Wisconsin Press.